Li Yang WR150 N5

Yang 5

Li Yang

WR150 N5

Feb 11th2015

Reframing thedebateof usingAnimats as tools

There are two commonmethodsusedin thefieldof animalbehaviorresearchto learningabout biology,which includebuildingmodelsof existinganimalsandbuildingadhoc artificialcreatureanimats. However,whetheranimatsare a necessarytoolthat offersadvantagesoranimatsare not usefulforinvestigatingbiologicalprincipleshas alwaysbeena controversialissuein thisfield.Alotof scientistshavegiventheir ownviewson thistopic.Barbara Webb saysthatanimatsmodeling is one wayof discriminatinganimals’realphenomenonandscientists’prediction.Matej Hoffmann goesagainst Webb’s argumentandsays,“Scientists can useas preliminaryvalidation foranimatmodels withoutresorting to comparisonto animalsat everystage – whichmay boosttheproductivityof research”(317). In myopinion,whetherusinganimatsis fitwith methodology should not be as importantas bothsidesdebateabout.Thisis becauseeveryresearchmethodmust haveits advantagesanddisadvantages.Itis worthnothingwhentwo scientistsalwaysargueagainst eachotheron thebased of thenatureof someresearchtoolsandtheir characteristics.In myopinion,thedebateshould gofurtherto discusshowto combineanimalmodeling andanimatsin thebestway,which can retainbothadvantagesandeliminateeachdisadvantageto helpresearchers in thepracticalfield.

In thisparagraph,wefirstly acknowledgeandrespondto two contraryclaims.One of them is representativeof Barbara Webb andanotheropposingoneis representativeof Matej Hoffmann. Animat simulations needto be consideredas modelsin orderto maintaintheir relevancein thefieldof biology.Thisis becauseanimatsare not partof biology,buttheyserveas effectivetoolsforexplorationof artificialsystems.Whenexplainingabout theaccuracyof animats,Webb stated,“theyare abstract,approximate,andnot necessarilyaccurateandthattheyare usedmostlyforexploringgeneralprinciples,providingexistenceproofs,andgeneratingnovelhypotheses”(282). Webb alsopointsout thatthereasonwhyotherresearchers arguedthatanimatsisbetteris becauseitis impossibleto providedetailed,accurate,andcompletemodelsof anyrealanimalsystem.Therefore,theonlyalternativeis to inventartificialcreaturesforstudy.However,Webb believesthatmanypeopleignoreanimatssince theyresultin thedevelopmentof abstracted,inaccurateandincompletemodelsof realanimals.Althoughmethodological transparencyandcleanlinessare necessary,animatsisdifficultto achievein realsituations.Hoffmann agreeswith thetwo opinionsgivenby Webb. Firstly, in orderto claimsomething about biology,one needsto demonstratehowtheinsightslearnedfrom animatsare relevantforthe biologicalsystem.Secondly,thisprocessis oftenpostponedindefinitely.ButHoffmann says,“We thinkthatthere are alternative validation criteriaforcomparisonwith realsystem”(317).

Themainpointthat Hoffmann disagreeswith Webb is thevalidation of animats.Unlike theWebb’s viewof animats,which is abstractandworthless,Hoffmann thinksthatanimatis not a simplemodelbecauseitsimplymodifiesthereactionof realanimals.Without modeling overhead,Hoffmann states“buildingan animatandusingitto explainbiologicaldata posthoc can actuallybe a productiveapproach”(318). In addition,Hoffmann givesanotheradvantageof animats,which is thereductionof bias.Althoughanimalmodeling providesfocusto thesearchforhypotheticalmechanisms,italsoinevitablylimitsandbiasesthesearch.

BothWebb andHoffmann discusstheadvantagesanddisadvantagesof animat.Webb opposesanimatbecausetheydisturbtheresearchmethodology purityandHoffmann pointsout thatanimatsmaketheresearchmoreproductivethan before.However,bothof them focuson debatingwith eachothertoomuchwhileforgettingto compromisewith others, andthenfigureout thecomprehensivewaysto learnbiologicalprinciplesusingbothrealanimalmodelandanimats.Iagreewith Hoffmann’sviewthatWebb’s thinkingof animatsis a model,which is onlydemonstratedby human’spredictionthuslackof exploration,itis not objective.Itis importantforbiologists developtheir ownmodels,insteadof waitingforresearchers in otherdisciplinesto doso.Thenewmodelsdevelopedby biologists can serveas sourcemodels.

After acknowledgingtheanimalmodeling researchandanimatsanalysis,wecan lookat thesetwo toolsmoreobjectively.Animalmodeling absolutelyis real,figurative,andaccurate.Buton theotherhand,animalmodeling has toomanycontingencies.HealthResearch Funding stated,“Testing madewith animalscan misleadresearchers whileignoringpotentialtreatmentandcures”(1). Everyexperienceof animalmodeling will givedifferentobservationandconclusion,anditmay askresearchers to dotheexperimentrepeatedthousands timeto evaluatethefinalconclusion.Whatis thereason?Iwantto saythereasonis thatanimalmodeling lacksthestandardclearcounterparts.Comparedwith animalmodeling, animatsseemsmoreartificial,abstract,andinaccurate.However,since everycoinhas two sides,animats biggestadvantagesare backwardevaluation andproductivity.Based on thetwo methodcharacteristics,wecan underlineemphasisthatanimatsfocusmoreon theprincipleof biologymechanismandanimalmodeling focuson socialand emotionalbehavior.Forexample,ifwewantto testwhetherthelegrunningactionof a tigeris similarto a humanbeing,wecan justbuildan animatbio-engineer sourcemodelof tigerto seewhetherits boneandmuscleactionsare similarwith a human-being. Thisis bettercomparedto theprocessof catchingthousands of tigersto seetheir motionswhenrunning.Maybeitis morerealistic,butitalsoresultsin wasteof moneyandtime.

Wemust admitthatsometimesin theresearchfield,productivityandaccurateness are tradedoff. Butifwetestthetravelingbirds’communicationandfeeding, usinganimatonlywill makeus ignorethepopulationinternalcognitioncommunication.Asa result,wewill easilygoin thewrongdirection,which wepredictedwhereitshould be. In thiscase,weshould combineanimalmodeling andanimatbecauseanimalmodeling giveslesscomprehensivedata to analyzeandmakepredictions,whileanimatsgivethebackwardevaluation whetherour guessesare rightorwrong.IgavethisexamplebecauseIthinkfewpluralcan be categorizedclearlyby biologicalmechanismsandsocial-emotionalcognitionin thefieldof animalresearch.In actualsense,mostcaseshavebothof them, butwith differentleverage.Therefore,thetravelingbirds’exampleis commonandcan givean objectiveconclusionof myview.

In conclusion,debatesforanimalresearchmodeling andanimatsare worthless.Thisis becausethetwo approacheshavedifferentbenefitsin thefieldof research.In addition,wecannot easilyassignanyresearchexperimentto a specificmethodology. Therefore,thebestresultscan onlybe obtainedby combiningthesemethodologies.

Work cited

Beer, D. and Williams, P.“Animals and animats: Why not both iguanas?” AdaptiveBehavior 17.4 (2009):296-302. DOI: 10.1177/1059712309340844

Health Research Funding. Pros andcons of animal testing. HealthResearch Funding Organization.26 February. 2014. Web. 2 February 2015.

Hoffmann, M. and Pfeifer, R. “Letanimats live!” AdaptiveBehavior 17.4 (2009):317-319. DOI: 10.1177/1059712309340852

Webb, B. “Animal VersusAnimats: Or Why Not Model the Real Iguana?” AdaptiveBehavior 17.4 (2009):269-286. DOI: 10.1177/1059712309339867

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